Aquino not likely to support aunt ‘Tingting’ Cojuangco in ARMM polls
MANILA, Philippines—The Aquino administration will not throw its support behind the President’s aunt, Margarita “Tingting’’ Cojuangco, who wants to run for vice governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), if the ARMM elections push through in August, an administration source said on Wednesday.
But the source, who is knowledgeable about the administration’s stand on the ARMM issue but lacked authority to speak to the media about it, said they were confident the ARMM elections would be postponed and synchronized instead with the mid-term polls in May 2013 as pushed by President Aquino.
The source said Cojuangco would not be the administration candidate, adding that the administration wanted “reform candidates’’ for ARMM.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. insisted on Wednesday that the Palace preferred that the ARMM polls be postponed but also admitted the eventuality of the polls pushing through was being discussed.
Ochoa said Palace officials were “hoping and praying that (senators) see the wisdom of the President’s position on the postponement’’ of the ARMM polls.
The fate of the postponement of the ARMM polls in August now lie in the Senate which has yet to start plenary debates on the ARMM postponement bill.
Senators were set on Wednesday night to debate the bills deferring the ARMM polls to May 2013.
The senators are expected to vote on it on Monday two days before Congress adjourns sine die on June 8.
“This is something urgent. There’s no more time because we are adjourning sine die. We can’t dribble this like you do in basketball,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile told reporters.
Asked what option the Palace has in case the Senate fails to pass the bill, he said: “I don’t think we have any other option but to pursue the elections because we’re so pressed for time.’’
“So if (the ARMM postponement bill) dies in the Senate, then the option is for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to proceed,’’ he added.
But Ochoa assured that the Comelec had been preparing for the ARMM polls “whether it’s postponed or not.’’
Asked whether the Palace will then field its candidates for the ARMM polls, Ochoa said the deadline for certificates of candidacy for the election had lapsed last week but added that this matter was “still being discussed’’ in the Palace.
He conceded though that it “appears’’ that the Aquino administration may end up backing up some candidates.
“If we were to pick one to support, we will be bound by the list of those who filed,’’ Ochoa said.
Asked whether the administration then will support Cojuangco, Ochoa said: “That is part of the discussion. I don’t want to preempt the President.’’
President Aquino had earlier indicated he could not support his aunt’s candidacy because he was pushing for the postponement of the ARMM polls so it could be synchronized with the mid-term polls in May 2013.
Cojuangco is married to the President’s uncle, Jose “Peping’’ Cojuangco, who in turn is the brother of his late mother, former President Corazon Aquino. With a report from TJ Burgonio